For years, Louisiana State University has been known as a football powerhouse. Ever since Nick Saban took over in 2000, followed by Les Miles in 2005, the Tigers have been one of the most successful programs in the country. They have won two national championships in that span (2003, 2007) and appeared in another in 2011.
However, under the tutelage of head coach Johnny Jones, the Tigers’ basketball program has compiled talent seemingly under the radar the past few years.
Earlier this week, Jones landed the biggest fish in the pond of the 2016 class, No. 1 overall player Ben Simmons.
Simmons (6’8, 225) is a versatile forward who can play either the small-forward position or could even play the stretch-four. NBA scouts are salivating over his pro potential, and have already pegged him as a sure-fire Top-5 pick in the 2016 NBA draft even though he has yet to step a foot on LSU’s campus.
The Australian native first made noise as a ninth-grader in 2012 at the Pangos All-American camp. He battled against the likes of top players Zach LaVine, Stanley Johnson, Cliff Alexander, and held his own. According to maxpreps.com, trainer Jeremy Reusotti stated that Simmons had the highest pro-potential at the camp.
Simmons is a very unique player. He has the ability to torch you with his athleticism and ability to score but also has a keen sense of awareness on the basketball court. Simmons plays with an unselfish attitude and can light up the box score on any given night. He has a smooth jumper, and will be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
Luckily for LSU, Simmons’ godfather, David Patrick, is an assistant coach for the Tigers and is close friends with his father from their days playing professionally in Australia. Patrick played a key role in Simmons’ decision to sign with the Tigers over the likes of Duke, Kansas, Florida, and Ohio State.
Over the past three recruiting cycles, Jones has put the Tigers on the map. In the 2013 class, he landed five-star forward Jarell Martin, four-star forward Jordan Mickey, and four-star guard Tim Quarterman; all three were ranked in the Top-100 of the 2013 class. He followed that with four-star big man Elbert Robinson in the 2014 class.
The Tigers could make some noise this season, led by Mickey and Martin.
Some scouts believe if Mickey and Martin have successful seasons, they could be drafted in the first round of the 2015 NBA draft. However, if they were to stay for another year with the addition of Simmons, there could be something very special brewing in Baton Rouge – on the basketball court, not the football field.
*Section Photo credit to Jim Redmond, Redmond Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Joshua C. Cruey, Orlando Sentinel.